For a program desperate to gain a semblance of improvement, the NCAA’s decision to grant St. John’s senior forward Anthony Mason Jr. an additional year of eligibility provides the Red Storm with some positive momentum heading into the 2009-10 season.
Mason, who tore a tendon in his right foot during the third game of last season, returns to lead a program that struggled mightily in his absence. Mason, averaging a team best 18 points a game before suffering the injury, was experiencing foot problems prior to the start of the season and re-aggravated the tendon sometime during the second half in a loss against Boston College last November.
The senior from Memphis should provide the Storm with the scoring option the team sorely missed during the 2008-09 season. St. John's finished 13th offensively in the Big East Conference in scoring, averaging 65.9 points per game.
Mason, one of the Big East's best athletes before his injury, will strengthen SJU's defensive effort as well. The one question surrounding Mason's return is how many minutes he can expect to log this season. Every indication suggests that he will be brought along slowly and increase his playing time as the year progresses. Mason averaged around 34 minutes a game during his short stint last season and will likely see that much court time once conference play commences.
On a positive note, Mason's injury did provide an opportunity for players like Paris Horne and Malik Boothe to gain some valuable experience. Horne had a breakout year, finishing the season averaging 14.5 points per game. Boothe, who struggled at times in conference play, will be backed up by highly regarded freshman Malik Stith. St. John's also returns last year's starting forwards, Sean Evans, D.J. Kennedy and Justin Burrell. Mason's return provides Norm Roberts with the most athletic and deep team he has fielded since he arrived in Jamaica six years ago. Mason's return may mean the difference between another disappointing season and the Storm's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002.